Baby led weaning is one of the biggest trends for parents when it comes to transitioning their infants to real, solid foods. I was unfamiliar with the concept until recently. I decided to learn what it baby led weaning was all about and after learning more, I’m pretty impressed. Here are some important lessons I learned about baby led weaning.

Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

The Premise Behind The book:

benefits of baby led weaningA while ago I was introduced to the idea of baby led weaning by a friend of my wife’s The concept is fairly simple. Weaning is the idea of transitioning infants from (ideally) breast milk or formula over to solid foods. These solid foods are supposed to supplement/compliment breast milk until the transition to one hundred percent solid foods has taken over. Meanwhile, breast feeding can continue for up to several years for some people. Traditionally, and especially in the Western world, weaning is initiated and controlled by the parents. The process generally begins with the initiation of spoon-feeding. In this case, the parent controls the time, tempo, and when and what the baby eats. Baby led weaning is quite a different process and it places control in the hands (literally) of the infant. Baby led weaning gives the infant the opportunity to be in control of eating using their own abilities and their own natural instincts. I got to see how baby led weaning worked first hand with her child and she recommended this book to my wife who then referred the book on to me. I have to say, having never heard of the concept of baby led weaning before, I was very impressed by how it works.

How Baby Led Weaning Works

Baby led weaning is the concept of placing small, soft palatable foods in front of an infant and placing them in control of eating. With baby led weaning, it’s easy for parents to leave behind purees and weaning spoons. The process begins with simply letting your infant feed themselves. By including the infant at mealtimes, small, soft finger foods are placed in front of the infant, and by using their hands, they get to place the food in their mouth themselves. For example, a parent could lay out avocado and banana in small chopped portions, and the baby at their own pace would get to pick between the two and feed themselves. The process of baby led weaning allows infants to explore foods for themselves, make choices about foods, expose them to real foods, and help to develop hand, mouth, and swallowing coordination at their own process.

Amazing Benefits Of Baby Led Weaning

For those people unfamiliar with this concept of baby led weaning, it might sound crazy to allow babies to feed themselves with small pieces of food. However, baby led weaning has some phenomenal benefits:

  • Baby led weaning increases the chances that a child will like a wide range of foods – particularly healthy fruits and vegetables without introducing high amounts of sugary foods to infants.
  • Baby led weaning allows an infant to develop feeding at their own pace.
  • Baby led weaning helps to encourage oral and swallowing control as well as encourage hand-eye coordination.
  • Baby led weaning allows the infant to decide when they are done eating based off of how they feel rather than the ideas of how someone else thinks they feel.
  • Chewed food is easier for infants to stomach and digest – saliva helps to start the digestive process.  The longer food is kept in the mouth, the more salivary juices can act on food.  This is something that is skipped with pureed/blended foods.
  • It’s natural – infants are designed to experiment and explore foods.  Baby led weaning helps to encourage their natural instincts.
  • By allowing infants the time to handle their food and put food in their mouth at their own pace, it allows infants the opportunity to learn  about different textures, different looks of foods, and how different flavors work together – another thing missed by parent led spoon-feeding.
  • Baby led weaning helps infants to learn what’s chewable and what is not.
  •  It’s cheaper – just another added bonus. By sharing your already made meals with your infant, you avoid the insane cost of already prepared pureed baby foods.
  • You get to control the foods that you give your infant and what goes in your infants body.
  • It helps you be healthier – if you’re feeding your infant the same stuff that you’re eating, you’re less likely to want to feed yourself, and your infant, crap.

What I Loved About The Book

Before I had heard about baby led weaning, I have to admit, I myself was a skeptic. What sold me was the experience of my wife’s friends who did baby led weaning with her infant – and I actually got to see her child feed first hand at my house. At the age of a little less than twelve months I was impressed by what her child could do by sitting at the table and deciding between softened vegetables, fruits, and avocados and the ability that her daughter displayed at handling food. The book presented a clear and practical argument for the use of baby led weaning as a way to transition infants on to solid foods and eventually away from breast milk or formula. One of the unfortunate things is that actual studies on baby led weaning are virtually non-existent. In its place, the author had dozens of anecdotal evidence from parents who have implemented baby led weaning with their children and their successes with baby led weaning. I also loved the stories from parents that had done baby led weaning on one child and parent led weaning on another child. The parents also shared the differences of eating habits between the children who have done baby led weaning and those who haven’t. Their children who were baby led had far greater eating habits compared to their children who haven’t.

Who Should Read Baby Led Weaning:

This book should be read by every parent with a newborn. This book should also be read by every single healthcare practitioner – especially nurses, midwives, and pediatricians and those that have regular interaction with parent/infant education. Going through a nursing program myself, I know first hand that I have never been presented with this concept of feeding an infant and baby led weaning is something I definitely plan on doing with my own children one day. Baby led weaning is a phenomenal concept and it’s a shame that in the Western World (and particularly in the United States) only one school of thought is taught to parents and healthcare practitioners. If you decide that baby led weaning isn’t right for you, at least you know there are other options. I would at least recommend everyone get familiar with the concept or at least give baby led weaning a try.

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